Head: Planning for Cloud When There’s No One-Size-Fits All

Jan Bouwer, Chief of Digital Platform Solutions at BCX

Every organisation today is either using – or looking to move to – the cloud for scalability, agility, and continuity. But for those still early in the cloud journey, it is important to understand that the cloud is a concept, not a place, and there is no one cloud service or model to suit all business use cases.

In theory, moving to the cloud should make managing infrastructure simpler and cheaper, but this is not usually the case. Most organisations typically adopt a hybrid, multi-cloud model, and find the environment can rapidly become challenging to manage.

Choosing the wrong cloud model or service provider can cause unintended complexity and cost. Indeed, many early adopters moved data and workloads out of the cloud again – largely because of the soaring costs they incurred. Choosing the right models, at the right cost, and for the right use cases, are crucial for cloud success.

The purpose of cloud

Cloud computing is a much older concept than most people realise. It dates back to the 1960s when companies would rent space on mainframes owned by computer bureaus. The name was borrowed from telephone networks – they were represented as a cloud because where the lines were didn’t matter, as long as users could access them.

While the technology has changed dramatically since, the concept in and of itself hasn’t. Today, the cloud enables organisations to access their data and systems from anywhere, it allows them to scale resources up and down without having to invest in hardware themselves, and in many cases, it also offers security and tools organisations might not otherwise have had access to.

Planning for cloud

Before making any move, the organisation should determine why they want to move to cloud, and the business benefits and outcomes they expect from the move. They also need a clear understanding of the systems they currently run, which are suitable for a move, and which are not, and any integration and dependency issues that might arise in a hybrid, multi-cloud environment.

There are pros and cons to each type of cloud configuration: private cloud clients may enjoy the benefits that come with optimised use of their resources and may also find it easier to customise systems, with greater control and security. The drawback is that it can require IT teams who have the skills to run these environments. A managed private cloud overcomes the hurdles, with expert skills migrating and managing the environment to ensure high-performance, highly available infrastructure at a manageable cost.

Public clouds, on the other hand, are highly scalable, cost effective, reliable, and flexible, and most providers offer a disaster recovery plan. Hyper-scalers such as Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Huawei Cloud provide cloud services as commodities, leveraging a global pool of computing resources to be able to provide almost infinite scalability, on-demand, as their clients require it.

However, security and data sovereignty could be a concern for some organisations, and the ease with which resources can be spun up can cause costs to spiral. Hybrid clouds, which can also incorporate on-premise infrastructure, may offer control, but may also come with less visibility and more complexity.

The cloud solution you choose will very much depend on your specific business circumstances and needs. Considerations for the type of cloud environment your business adopts can largely be grouped into three categories: regulatory environment, performance needs and budgetary considerations. 

The regulations governing your operations will define what data you need to keep under your own control – typically in private clouds either on-premise or in a hosted environment, in the country you are domiciled in, and what data can be housed in public cloud environments where data might cross borders and be housed in international data centres.

Performance needs will also impact your choice of cloud – performance, latency and uptime impact the cost of your service, therefore you might opt to select a premium service for the applications and data you need immediate access to, and a standard lower cost option for archive data.

Budget is a top-of-mind concern in all organisations. Unexpected costs due to uncontrolled cloud consumption and a sprawling cloud services ecosystem can come as a shock. Careful planning and controls need to be in place to ensure the right workloads and systems are in the right clouds.

Organisations should also look at factors such as security, standards, service levels and support offered by the various cloud service providers, as well as integration and management of the environment across multiple clouds and legacy systems.

Before making the move, consider approaching a managed cloud service provider such as BCX, who has the skills and expertise to assess your business needs, develop a cloud roadmap, and help you migrate securely to the right cloud environments for your needs and budget.